Beach fetch: on set at sunset.
I was surrounded by tall walls.
Never in my life – and I mean never – had I so much as seen, let alone been the sole inhabitant, to a structure of such sterility.
The cement cell was roofless, sure, but the psychological tactics didn’t fool me. The blue-skied view served as one big hopeful illusion – more torture than gesture for the lonely prisoners who’d paced the chain-link gate.
My howls for help had gone unanswered and the reality of my incarceration began to settle in. For four years and 46 states I’d eluded an on-leash society; soon, a uniformed man would appear. He’d read me my rights and deliver the charges…
Beer-bellied-border-patrol guy: Gus, you have walked, ran, swam, pissed, sniffed, shat, slept, hiked, eaten and drank without a leash both at home and abroad. Do you deny this?
Me: Where’s my dad?!
Beer-bellied-border-patrol guy: You are being charged in the court of canine law as a ‘fetch fugitive.’ How do you plea?
Me: WHERE’S. MY. DAD?!?!
I hadn’t seen him since he locked me in here and walked away. That was 20 minutes ago. Dad wouldn’t rat us out, would he?
I mean, sure, our guilt was fairly blatant; all the evidence was printed in the canine rags. (Dad said one newspaper called me a “four-legged Jesse James.”) Still, we’d take it to trial just to make ‘em work for our sentence. With my career and fate hanging in the balance, I’d opt for a jury over any admission to some bureaucrat with a badge.
My only question though was why now? This particular border crossing, our eighth and final one of the summer, should have come with a parade, not a summon.
In the past week we had slept at a gas station, ate from a neverending inventory of canned goods, belched and developed acute acid reflux because of said canned goods, and switchbacked obscure highways through the armpit of Canada. The system sure knows how to kick you when you’re down, the thought rang. And that’s when a door slammed.
Faintly, footsteps approached. Soon after, a shadow canopied my cage and an irked baritone filled my ear. Like William Wallace, I looked vertical and prayed for strength.
They took the apples! They took all of the ORGANIC apples!!!
Dad unlatched the gate, apologized and set me free. Promptly, he described his meeting.
First, they forced him to surrender Betty’s keys. (This took some time).
Then, he waited. (Which took even more time).
Finally, the interrogation began. (This was a waste of time).
Bureaucrat with a badge: Sir, are these your apples?
My dad: Sure are.
Bureaucrat with a badge: Where did you get them?
My dad: A grocery store… wait, is this a trick question?
Bureaucrat with a badge: Did you know they are a product of New Zealand?
My dad: Does it matter if I did or I didn’t?
Bureaucrat with a badge: I’m afraid we’ll have to confiscate them.
My dad: Confiscate? That’s a little heavy.
Bureaucrat with a badge: American food laws differ from Canada’s.
My dad: But I just bought them. What if I ate all of them right now?
Bureaucrat with a badge: I’m sorry, but that’s not allowed.
My dad: (Death stare).
Bureaucrat with a badge: Drive safe.
It had been a month since we found any organic produce. At this point in the journey, dad would have surrendered his Apple computer before his organic apples.
Dad’s collection of apple tags.
The antagonist, dad said, held the brown bag as if a sudden movement might detonate their cores. Dad loathes drama, but admitted that, if we ate Monsanto-made fruit, the chemicals combined with the fire in his eyes could have blown up the building. He likened his loss to that of Belushi.
Not long after, dad and I were in Washington; back on home turf for good. With our close call behind us, all road facets improved from that point forward.
Like in the San Juan archipelago, where we stayed in a secluded cabin in the woods for two whole nights. Real bed included.
Then, in Anacortes, when dad ran into a close family friend at the grocery store. By a serendipitous stroke of the Divine, he spotted her via Betty’s rearview mirror prior to reversing from the parking lot. Mammoth hugs ensued.
And then, a real life road miracle happened. After a dreary morning stuck in the slow death that is Seattle traffic, I awoke in Betty circling the airport terminal. Before gaining perspective, there I was, lying in the backseat on my godfather’s lap with all my Love and all my Might.
I’d never collected a family member on the road before. Each time Betty fell from our Missouri driveway, it felt like a portal plunge into a land of unfamiliarity. No recliners. No dishwashers. And certainly, no family. Was my godfather’s road breath embarrassing? Absolutely. But some things are best left unsaid.
As it turns out, my godfather had come to film Betty, dad and me across our 47th state for a few days. From sunrise to sunset, the lights were on. In Olympic National Park. At the gas station. And over the Cascades. With clothes. Without clothes. However and wherever the narrative flowed.
One day we were kicked off of a pear farm. The next, I ran off set to eat bacon with a diner waitress. Had dad not chopped me in my youth, my first-born pup would bear her name.
The rain came and went – we were in Washington after all – but Betty’s new wipers kept things clear. I was the star of the show, yes, but you know what they say in the biz… you’re only as good your leading lady. Come awards season, I trust Betty to be handed the hardware she deserves.
Theatrical release is currently one of many moving pieces. Dad says that short documentaries about a car, a dog and their bearded chauffeur aren’t high on Hollywood agenda’s. Fortunate for our film that, come press time, we’re all too aware that purity is power.
More to come next week,